Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Why News Can't Cope.


I don't like the term 'commit suicide'.

It still has the overtones of a criminal offence; you commit homicide, or matricide, but not suicide.

In the UK an estimated 7 people per 100,000 kill themselves each year and to characterize them all would be a horrible disservice to them and their families. Everyone is different, with different needs, and hopes, and emotional drivers pushing them on through life; and people who kill themselves have reached a point of desperation or calm or decision... they choose, for whatever reason, to end themselves.

None of this is news.

When L'Wren Scott killed herself was a model, a stylist, a designer, a business woman, she was a rounded personality.

A person.

None of this is news... unless you have an interest in the fashion world.

At the time L'Wren Scott killed herself she was in a relationship with Sir Mick Jagger the front man of The Rolling Stones.

This is news.

News organisations have difficulty with the dichotomy of being respectful and telling the story.

On the morning after her death was announced the UK Newspapers were evenly split between "L'Wren Scott, designer and partner of Sir Mick Jagger" and "Sir Micks Girlfriend". The Ex BBC Radio 4 newsreader Alice Arnold tweeted
Whoever wrote @BBCRadio2 headline on death of L’wren Scott - be ashamed..”Mick Jagger’s girlfriend”..you didn’t even name her for ‘30 secs.
 L'Wren Scott's death has highlighted a problem in reporting.

Would this be international news if she wasn't Sir Mick Jagger's partner? And if not, then how do you report something without making the error of forgetting that she is a person.

When I was managing journalists there were a number of inaccuracies that I didn't want to see or hear; people die of AIDS related illnesses not of AIDS, murderers murder women who were working as prostitutes / in the sex industry they don't murder prostitutes, people are wheelchair users not confined to wheelchairs, people live with a disability they aren't disabled...

The way the news uses language is important, not just for the sense of a story but for the way we feel about it.

Coverage of L'Wren Scott has shown us how journalists thinking "What's important?" Sometimes don't think "what is right?".

For a journalist covering this story "Mick Jagger's Girlfriend" is what they see as the important bit, is easier and quicker than "L'Wren Scott, designer and entrepreneur, girlfriend of Mick Jagger". It doesn't make it right and it certainly doesn't add to the moral health of an industry that has such power.

My heart goes out to those affected by her death and those affected when anyone kills themselves.

I'm sad that this horrible, private event has become news fodder.

I'm sorry so many journalists don't think about language as much as they should.


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